The literature festival, which was part of the marquee event, at Ward’s Lake had a tepid show. It started with a conversation with Daribha Lyndem, the author of Name, Place, Animal, Thing, and ended with an evening with actor and director Naseeruddin Shah.
Though the conversation with Amitav Ghosh was a disappointment but it was compensated for in the second half of the event.
The poetry session with young poets from the city was a wonderful experience, especially under the cherry blossom tree and by the side of the lake.
As the litfest started losing its rhythm, author Devdutt Pattnaik added zest with his witty comments and lively conversation with moderator Malavika Banerjee. The string was picked up by Balaji Vittal, the c0-author of SD Burman: The Prince Musician, and two talented singers from Kolkata, Parthasarathi Bhattacharya and Moushumi Saha, and musician Jeremy Mawlong.
Shah’s tete-a-tete with local thespian Lapdiang Syiem was something to be cherished, not for the moderator’s expertise in enlivening the conversation but for the actor’s aura.
Sunday Monitor presents a few vignettes from the litfest on the concluding day of the Cherry Blossom Festival:
Daribha Lyndem: It is not easy to speak to an acclaimed author, especially when the debut book gets shortlisted for a prestigious award. After the book-reading session, Daribha Lyndem was seen signing books for her fans and talking to well-wishers. After waiting for nearly half an hour, the author called the reporter for a short interview.
The author, who speaks with conviction and is rooted to reality, said her debut book received much attention after it was shortlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature. Lyndem informed that she is planning another novel, “which may not be set in Shillong but will have links with my city”.
When asked about the lack of action in the literary sphere in the North East, the author said, “I believe to create literature one has to have security. One cannot be creative if he or she has to think about livelihood. I have a secured job and that allows me to focus on my writing during my leisure time.”
Devdutt Pattnaik: “Don’t go to politicians to learn history,” Devdutt Pattnaik quipped to a question. The witty author of several books on mythology added spirit to the event. Pattnaik, who is noted for his research on mythologies of different countries, explained how history and mythology are different entities and why politicians often cross the line and misinform the public.
“It is not a historian’s job to make you feel good. A historian documents the past, be it good or bad. But can we bear to listen to all the bad things about our past, about the country’s past? Politicians may make you feel good about the past because they need votes. We can’t go to a politician to learn history,” said the author amid applause.
Pattnaik’s new book, Marriage, was also unveiled at the festival.
Remembering SD Burman: Author Balaji Vittal’s new book, SD Burman: The Prince Musician, was released by Pattnaik before the former shared anecdotes from Burman’s life and career.
Vittal ensured that the session remained interactive and involved the audience as he took them through Burman’s musical journey. The North East’s Prince of Indian Melody, which was also the title of the show, was deeply influenced by folk music and had a deep impact of the northeastern culture and music.
As he shared anecdotes, singers Parthasarathi Bhattacharya and Moushumi Saha entertained the audience with Burman’s songs. While Saha invited the audience to participate keep up the rhythm, Bhattacharya concluded the session with a song from the 1983 film Masoom, whose lead actor Naseeruddin Shah was the next speaker.
Naseeruddin Shah: The septuagenarian actor shared his journey from stage to screen and his inspirations as actor. He spoke about English actor Geoffrey Kendal and how he inspired Shah, an alumnus of National School of Drama, as a thespian.
Shah has been vocal about various issues, which is a rare trait among artistes in today’s India. When servility and sycophancy have muted voices, the veteran actor has dared to speak up. When Sunday Monitor asked him how an artiste can justify art without reacting to the world around, Shah said it would be wrong to make a generalised comment.
On northeastern cinema, Shah apologetically said he has not watched many films from the region. “Those are not available on popular platforms. I will try to find them,” he signed off with a promise.
Also read: Cherry Blossom Festival at a cost